Illegal? Estates now play traffic cop

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Independent Newspapers

File photo: Tracey Adams.

Several housing estates using a private company to issue traffic fines to residents and visitors are potentially doing so illegally.

A private company, called Licence Plate Recognition CC, trading as I-CUBE, has approached estates countrywide, including some in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, to enforce road speed laws within the estates.

The company, run by Barry Fryer Dudley, scans the driving licences of visitors, installs cameras and sends fines to anyone who infringes the traffic rules of the homeowners’ association.

But the acting chief executive of the Road Traffic Management Corporation, Collins Letsoalo, is adamant that what i-CUBE and the homeowners’ associations are doing is illegal.

EXTORTION?

“Where is this man? We must go and arrest him immediately. No homeowners’ association has the right to enforce rules of the road. Those are public roads,” he said.

“If a debt collection company is forcing people to pay these fines, then what they are doing is extortion. This whole operation is fraud and impersonating a traffic officer. We are getting our anti-corruption unit involved.”

Justice Project South Africa chairman Howard Dembovsky became aware of the private cameras when one of his members received a R360.47 fine at the Centurion Residential Estate and Country Club.

The fine is not Aarto-based, but closely resembles an Aarto 03 infringement notice. His client had driven 41km/h in a 30km/h zone, according to the fine.

Dembovsky informed his client not to pay the fine as it is illegal for anyone who is not a police officer to issue traffic fines. Within a few weeks, his client’s fine was escalated to R543.56 and was issued by a debt collection company, Credit Intel (Pty) Ltd.

Dembovsky has since laid a complaint with Director of Public Prosecutions advocate George Baloyi, who acknowledged receipt of the complaint, saying the matter had been referred to a senior prosecutor for investigation.

DEFRAUDING THE PUBLIC

“In our view, this matter is very serious indeed, and we simply cannot allow companies and individuals who think they have identified a business opportunity, which may have arisen out of a so-called exasperation at the lack of law enforcement by duly instituted law enforcement authorities, to get away with defrauding the public and the State,” Dembovsky said.

Gary Ronald, of the AA, said:

“If you are going to enforce the Road Traffic Management Act, you have to be appointed as a police officer. A private company cannot take the law into their own hands.”

i-CUBE describes itself on its website as having equipment that has licence plate recognition, facial identification and high-speed determination.

“Through access to the National Traffic Information System (eNatis), we trace individuals and vehicles and supply information to the relevant authorities, who can then decide to fine or prosecute offenders as appropriate.”

It is illegal for a private company to access the eNatis system.

But i-CUBE owner Dudley denies he uses eNatis on estates, saying the company uses it only for municipalities that are his clients. He refused to say which municipalities he allegedly works for.

He said traffic officers who work for him on the side analyse all the infringements.

Dudley told The Star he was not breaking the law because he was following the rules of the homeowners’ association.

“i-Cube and the estates we operate in are about saving lives, changing driver behaviour and ensuring the driver is held accountable. Please note that we issue homeowners’ association penalties/violations, not a national traffic fine or provincial or local violation.”

COLLECTION PROCESS PROBLEMATIC

Jaco Venter, estate manager at the Centurion Residential Estate and Country Club, said that after a pilot project with the cameras, they decided not to go ahead with them.

“It didn’t address our needs. The collection process was problematic,” he said.

 

The cameras are still being used at Woodhill Estate in Pretoria. Estate manager Harold Jooste said the estate needed the cameras because people don’t follow the speed limits, and calls to the metro police for help met with no reply.

 

- The Justice Project is calling for those who have received fines from a private company to send an e-mail to estates@jp-sa.org

-The Star


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